New Zealand's world champion rally drivers Hayden Paddon and John Kennard are fired up for victory in the Super 2000 World Rally Championship (SWRC) category when Brother Rally New Zealand gets underway next week.
The popular Kiwi pairing heads a five-strong SWRC field for Brother Rally New Zealand which runs from 21 to 24 June, based in Auckland and utilising roads around Whangarei, Kaipara, Rodney, Franklin and Raglan.
Paddon's focus is to win the SWRC category in his ENZED-backed Skoda Fabia S2000 rally car to improve his overall championship position - he's currently second with 37 points to Irishman Craig Breen who has 43 points. However Breen is not travelling to New Zealand, which Paddon gives the opportunity to take the SWRC lead with the 25 points awarded to the category winner.
"A strong points' haul would put us in a good position in the championship, but it does not really add any pressure as we are too early in the season yet," comments Paddon. "Our other goal for this event is to get a top ten finish in the overall standings."
Paddon says there's nothing like winning at home.
"For a change, it's nice to be doing an event where I know the roads well," says the 25-year-old production world rally champion who hails from Geraldine.
"Rally New Zealand is definitely one of my favourite events and I have been really looking forward to doing it again since it was last run two years ago.
With his Blenheim-based co-driver John Kennard alongside, Paddon has contested the local World Rally Championship rounds three times previously - 2007, 2008 and 2010 - and finished as the first New Zealanders at the last two.
"Nothing beats winning at home. Success in front of a home crowd is particularly special as we have a lot of fan support this year with our official New Zealand World Rally Team tour and some great local companies such as ENZED, PlaceMakers and Giltrap Group supporting us. A good result here would also help our efforts to raise the remaining funds for 2012."
With the Skoda arriving by sea just in time to receive the new ENZED livery last week, Paddon will be joined by his Spanish engineers from ASM Motorsport and some of his New Zealand team to run the car during a day-long test session near Huntly on the Sunday (17 June) before Rally New Zealand starts.
"We'll be maximising the value of every kilometre behind the wheel during the test day, and to help identify what we need to do for the car setup, I've been studying a lot of onboard footage from Portugal."
The SWRC field includes Per-Gunnar (P-G) Andersson and Alister McRae in Protons, and Polish driver Maciej Oleksowicz and Saudi driver Yazeed Al-Rajhi in Fords.
Paddon rates Andersson as his key S2000 competitor. "P-G showed in the APRC round in Whangarei earlier this year - Brother International Rally of Whangarei - that he is quick on these roads.
In chasing a top ten overall finish, Paddon knows he'll have to beat several drivers in world rally cars.
"While the SWRC is the main priority, one of the goals this year has been to pit ourselves against S�bastien Ogier, a WRC event winner who's driving a similar Skoda to ours this season while he waits for Volkswagen to rejoin the WRC next season. It's a blow that he isn't coming to New Zealand, as we are continually striving to show we do have what it takes to continue moving forward in the sport. Therefore we'll be putting ourselves up against some of the WRC competitors.
Paddon has also just confirmed a new sponsorship agreement Z Energy which sees the ever-expanding fuel company support Paddon's demanding world rally circuit campaign. In return Paddon will become a brand ambassador to assist Z promote Z's fuels portfolio, including the brand-new 95 octane ZX Premium fuel.
Paddon says: "We share common Kiwi values, and what Z is trying to achieve in New Zealand mirrors the success we are trying to achieve in the World Rally championship."
The team are also proud to announce new partnerships with Stadium Finance, continuing the partnership that Hayden had with Stadium Cars during the recent Rally Otago. Also Rally Tours, Ewings Engineering Contractors and MAK-Corp have all joined Hayden and his bid for Rally New Zealand glory.
Paddon's 2012 campaign is supported by PlaceMakers, Giltrap Group, Skoda, ENZED, Z Energy, Cameron Sea and Airfreight, Granger Design, Castrol, Raiseys, New Balance, Pope Print, Racetech, Chicane Racewear, Endless Brake Pads, 1 Group web design, Brita Safety, Rally Tours, MAK-Corp, EPS International, Saddle Hill Quarries, Monit Rally Computers, Bluebridge Ferries, Stadium Finance, and Ewings Engineering Contractors.
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